A colleague handed me this weeks book after learning that I am something of a book-a-holic. It turns out that he is a prolific reader too. The underside of his desk is home to a teetering, leaning-tower-of-books which seem to reproduce and multiply of their own accord.
I must admit that I would have totally judged this book by it’s cover and passed it up. To me, this is a boys cover…
My colleague assured me that it was ‘a bit war-ry, but mostly about the family’ and this was largely true. Besides which, whilst I find books about wars boring, it is mostly modern warfare that makes me yawn. This book was set in the 16th century so even the warfare more or less kept my attention.
The book centres on Babur, the first Moghul emperor who conquered land and settled in India from his native lands of modern day Uzbekistan and Afghanistan. Whilst Babur is portrayed as a benevolent king, I did get a bit fed up with him at times. Despite the great destiny that he seemed to think he ought to live up to, most of the things that happened to him were not of his own doing. He didn’t appear to be master of his own destiny.
‘Empire of the Moghul’ was a great way to dive into life in Asia in the 1500’s. Alex Rutherford has a talent for description, so that you really got a feel for the clothes they wore, the food they ate and the local customs and behaviour of the time. There was also a well defined set of characters who felt realistic. I really got into the swing of this book, but I must say it could do with going on a diet. Empire of the Moghul is almost 500 pages long. Come on Rutherford, I wanted to say You can have too much of a good thing! There were multiple battles, multiple quests for glory, multiple times that all was lost and had to be recovered again. Of course this is one of the pitfalls of historical fiction. On one hand there are the facts, the chronology of events and on the other is the need for a good story. I felt like Rutherford stayed a bit too true to the events in Babur’s life – it could have done with a wee bit of pruning.
But if historical fiction is your thing and you are even remotely interested in the workings of ancient Asian empires then Rutherford paints a beautiful picture, rich with the imagery of people and places. I, for one, am very grateful for the day that my colleague placed this book on my desk and advised me to read it. In terms of my challenge I feel that it has brought something all of its own that was missing amongst the books I had read until now. A new subject matter and a new voice. A very satisfactory addition to this years list.
Next week’s review is of ‘The Weight of Shadows’ by Karl Holton. Come back next Monday to find out more.